One morning, over 30 years ago, Gunpei Yokoi was on a train, traveling to work. As he sat on the train watching his fellow passengers his eyes fell upon a business man who was casually playing on his calculator to pass the time. It was then that Yokoi, who worked for a prominent Japanese toy company, was struck with an idea for a product that would forever change his career, the company he worked for, and the lives of millions of commuters, gamers and bored children in the backseats of cars during long road trips.
Turns out spelling "boob" and "hell" gets old after awhile.
Some of you know may be familiar with Gunpei Yokoi, but if you are not familiar with the man, I am sure you have heard of Nintendo, the company he started working for in 1965. By the late 70s Gunpei had become one of the pioneering game designers for Nintendo's fledgling video game division. The idea Yokoi happened upon on the train soon developed into this:
Game and Watch: Ball was released in 1980 and it was massively succesful. Using an LCD screen, the same type of display that old calculators employed, Yokoi was able to design rudimentary games that used very little power and provided hours of entertainment on the go. Nintendo was so impressed with Yokoi, they had him supervise a young game designer by the name of Shigeru Miyamoto design this little known arcade game:
When Yokoi was tasked with making a Game and Watch based on Donkey Kong, Yokoi had to come up with a way to allow the player to move Jump Man, who would later be named Mario. A joystick was not practical, so Yokoi just went ahead and designed the D-Pad. You know the thing that has basically appeared on almost every game controller since the mid-80s.
Huh. I guess the ghost of Yokoi haunted the Nintendo DS design team.
Yokoi's experience in designing portable games came in handy when he was tasked to create a machine that could play NES quality games on the go. Deciding to employ " Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology" he created a machine that was vastly under-powered when compared to other companies' offerings, but was also cheaper and used much less power, which meant it needed fewer batteries less often. The idea was that the cheaper price tag would sell more units. But did this tactic work?
Let me answer that question with another question. Does anybody really remember the Game Boy having any serious competition?
I didn't think so.
Also, did that woman have Game Boy games in her underwear? I mean I've fallen in love with my fair share of games, but I have never felt the need to be that close to a game before. This makes me very nervous considering how many used games I have bought and blown into. What if those games were at one point down someone's underwear, or worse? I will be disinfecting all used games I buy from now on.